Whether there’s benefit or not to be had from yet another review of the Australian Intelligence Community — as mooted today in the Fairfax press — will depend on how serious the government wants there to be. The last intelligence review in 2011 was a facile, Pollyannaish effort by an academic and a former head of the Attorney-General’s Department that declared all was well with agencies that had enjoyed a massive boost in personnel and resources with minimal accountability. Since then, of course, governments have pumped billions more into the coffers of our least accountable bureaucracies in the name of the endless War on Terror. But one benefit of any review will be that it will give Malcolm Turnbull an excuse to kill off any efforts by Labor to improve parliamentary oversight of security agencies via the Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security. Labor looks set to renew its push to strengthen the powers and role of the committee, but Turnbull appears to regard the committee with contempt, having appointed first far-right wingnut Andrew Nikolic to head it and then, after Nikolic was thankfully dispatched by his constituents, junior backbencher Michael Sukkar, who is likely to be rapidly house-trained by security agency bureaucrats who’ve been around longer than he’s been alive. A review should enable Turnbull to dismiss any reform efforts for the rest of what is likely to only be a two-year parliament.

Peter Fray

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